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Success of RENEW Centers on Commitment of Companies and Participants

Burke County resident Jim Clement needed a job and he was willing to do whatever it took to find one, including uprooting his family. Luckily, thanks to a unique Burke County workforce development program called Project RENEW, Clement was able to stay in an area that he and his family are happy to call home. “You don’t want to look at your kids and tell them they have to move, that they have to leave their school and all their friends,” said Clement. “We were at that point and then I found the RENEW program. I could tell that it was going to better my skills and improve my life – and I was right.” RENEW, which stands for “Re-Educating a New Employable Workforce,” is a unique workforce development program in Burke County that centers on a partnership between community organizations and local manufacturing companies. At the heart of the program is an opportunity for local jobseekers to better themselves in order to become more attractive job applicants. “The program is not easy,” said Jennifer Nicholes, Human Resource Director at Sypris Technologies, one of the participating manufacturing companies that has hired RENEW graduates. “It is done on the individual’s own time. They don’t get paid for it and the class is time consuming, but those who graduated were committed to the program and putting themselves in a better position to be successful. Our community members want to work and they want to do well.” Community organizations created RENEW after hearing from local manufacturers that more skilled workers are needed to fill current job openings. The program is designed to re-tool, re-educate and re-invent the local workforce to match the attitudes found in local companies – who themselves have had to ‘renew’ their operations in recent years to remain viable in today’s highly competitive environment. “The class helped me so much,” added Clement, who became employed at a local manufacturing company shortly after graduating. “RENEW opened a lot of doors for me. To those considering taking this program, it is worth every minute of your time. Yes, you are donating your time and it is a commitment, but it is for the betterment of yourself and your family.” The success of the first training program, which ended in June, exceeded expectations of participating companies, community leaders and graduates alike with 37 of 44 graduates being put to work. “Our initial goal was to place 22 graduates in permanent full-time jobs before the end of 2012,” said Scott Darnell, President of Burke Development, Inc. (BDI). “We have been able to find work for 37 graduates after just the first program and we are holding two more programs before the year’s end. I think that is tremendous.” Darnell attributes the success to the participation of local companies, who aided in the development of the program and agreed to consider RENEW completion as a preferred credential for those who apply for permanent positions at their facilities. “Without the high level of company involvement, this program would not be as successful as it has been already,” explained Darnell. “We had companies that needed more skilled employees and we had folks here that were looking for jobs. Obviously these two problems are related to each other but the key was coming up with a solution that solved both issues, which we believe we have done with RENEW.” The second class, which started July 10 and ends Oct. 25, currently has 34 active students. A third class will be held in the winter with 50 slots available. Registration will run through the end of October. The program is free for anyone who qualifies. Anyone interested in participating should contact Nick Saturno at (828) 448-6148. “We have two RENEW grads currently working at Sypris,” said Jennifer Nicholes. “They are machine operators and are doing very well.” When asked if Sypris would likely hire graduates from upcoming RENEW classes, Nicholes responded, “Absolutely. We are considering the participants of that program at the top of our list when we are looking for associates.” Nicholes continued, “Companies need to support the program so that Burke County is poised to be competitive when the market recovers and so we can continue employing our local individuals.” To help sustain area manufacturing growth, Burke Development, Inc. enlisted the assistance of Burke County Employment Security Council/JobLink Career Center; The Cognitive Connective/Workforce Investment Act Contractor; Western Piedmont Council of Governments/Workforce Development and Western Piedmont Community College’s (WPCC) Continuing Education Division to create the Re-Educating A New Employable Workforce (RENEW) Program. About Burke Development, Inc. Burke Development, Inc. (BDI) is a nonprofit organization supported by private and public funding that is charged with accelerating economic growth in Burke County. BDI works with industry leaders, site selection consultants, government agencies and other entities to facilitate expansion strategies for existing businesses and recruit target industries to Burke County. For more information about BDI visit www.BurkeDevInc.com.


Contact: Sara Chester 828.448.3821

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